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  • Writer's pictureAna M Toriello, AP, DOM

Could Your Blood Sugar Be Driving Your Hormonal Imbalance?

Hormonal imbalance occurs when the body has too much or too little of one or more hormones, causing various issues affecting our mood, sleep, energy levels, skin, fertility, and digestive issues. If you are struggling with hormonal imbalance, one cause may be your blood sugar levels. While it is common knowledge that sugar and refined carbs effects weight gain, they are also frequently at the root of PMS and menopausal symptoms. Eating large amounts of sugar can lead to insulin resistance which can affect the amount of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone made.  

What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition in which your body no longer responds to insulin, a hormone produced in your pancreas to regulate blood glucose (sugar) levels. It can be temporary or chronic, but the good news is that it can be reversed with proper nutrition and eating habits.

Consuming too many refined carbs and sugars will rapidly raise blood sugar levels triggering the pancreas to release insulin as a signal for cells to absorb glucose. This rapid rise in insulin causes a drastic reduction in blood sugar for a short period of time, which then triggers a rise in cortisol level moving sugar out of storage and into the bloodstream starting the insulin/cortisol release all over again.

Over time, cells lose their ability to take in large amounts of glucose and create a state of insulin resistance. Cells in the body actually alter the shape of their insulin receptors so that insulin can no longer transport glucose across the cell membrane. Both glucose and insulin are left to circulate through the bloodstream.

How Insulin Resistance Affects Hormones

The body is not designed for prolonged high levels of insulin circulating in the bloodstream. It can disrupt cellular metabolism, spreading inflammation and disrupting fat metabolism. When cells cannot absorb the extra glucose, the liver compensates by converting it into fat, which are loaded with glucose receptors.

This can lead to weight gain and risk of several serious chronic disease including diabetes and heart disease. When you are insulin resistant and gaining weight, your cells are actually starved of glucose and cannot cause enough, sometimes referred to “syndrome X”. You can feel exhausted all the time and crave carb heavy foods for energy.

These extra fat cells are like little estrogen factories, which causes estrogen dominance and a key feature in PCOS patients. Excess insulin can also tell the ovaries to make more testosterone. These excess sex hormones can then tell the body to produce other sex hormones to compensate, causing a cascade of imbalanced hormones.

What Are the Sings of Insulin Resistance?

Anyone can become insulin resistant, even if you are thin. Insulin resistance can have many signs, but some people don’t experience symptoms at all. If you are eating sugar-heavy or carb-heavy meals along with hormonal imbalance, you may be experiencing insulin resistance. Some symptoms that occur include:

  • Extreme thirst or hunger.

  • Feeling hungry or tired after a meal.

  • Increased or frequent urination.

  • Fatigue or energy slumps.

  • Cravings for sugar and crabs.

  • High belly fat.

  • Frequent infections

  • Tingling sensations in hands or feet.

  • Skin changes such as darkening of the skin, skin tags, or patches of velvety dark skin under arms or the neck.

  • Irregular periods.

  • Headaches.

  • Vision changes, including blurred vision.

Signs of Hormonal Imbalance

Hormones affect almost every aspect of our bodily functions. Hormonal imbalance can cause a variety of symptoms including:

  • Weight gain or weight loss.

  • Irregular heart rate.

  • Digestive issues including bloating, diarrhea, or constipation.

  • Mood swings, depression, or anxiety.

  • Insomnia or poor-quality sleep.

  • Skin issues including acne, rashes, or dry skin.

  • Thinning hair or hair loss.

  • Irregular periods, heavy periods, bleeding between periods, or missed periods.

  • Joint pain or stiffness.

  • Headaches.

  • Muscle aches and weakness.

  • Vaginal dryness.

  • Memory fog.

  • Infertility.

  • Fatigue.

  • Breast changes.

  • Night sweats.

  • Premenstrual syndrome.

How Do You Fix Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance can easily be fixed through diet and lifestyle changes. The time it takes to reverse it varies by person, but some people see improvements within weeks or a few months of consistent lifestyle changes. The key is to remain consistent for a period of time until you see changes. Diet will be the number one way to reverse insulin resistance.

Instead of thinking about absolutely no sugar or carbs, think glycemic control. It is nearly impossible to totally eliminate sugar from your diet. Fruits, vegetables, and even some legumes have some sugar in them. Instead, look for foods on the low glycemic index like the ones listed here . These foods will gradually increase blood glucose levels instead of creating a dramatic spike. It is also important to pair fruits and carbs with proteins and fats. For example, if you enjoy a fruit smoothie, add some protein powder and almond butter to prevent a blood sugar spike.

Other ways to reverse insulin resistance include:

  • Eat on a regular basis, every 3-4 hours to keep blood sugar levels stable.

  • Consume some type of protein with each meal.

  • Select healthy fats including olive oil, avocado oil, flax seeds, nuts, olives, avocados, and fish oil supplements.

  • Reduce alcohol intake and when you do drink, make sure you are not doing so on an empty stomach.

  • Zinc, Viatmin C, B-Vitamins, and omega-3 supplements can curb sugar cravings while lowering inflammation and insulin sensitivity.

  • Lower your stress burden. Practicing gratitude, meditation, and deep breathing are all excellent ways to lower your stress response.

  • Get at least 7 hours of deep, restful sleep at night.

  • Get 30 minutes of regular exercise. Aim for at least steady physical movement 3-5 times a week to regulate insulin and hormones. Building muscle through strength training, yoga, and HIIT exercises is also important for regulating blood sugar levels.

Other Drivers of Hormonal Imbalance

While insulin resistance may be a cause of your hormonal imbalance, there can be other drivers at play, including issues with your thyroid or pituitary, autoimmune disorders, and medications. Stress is one of the biggest contributors to hormonal issues as it can elevate cortisol levels. Other causes of hormonal imbalance include:

  • Environmental toxins. These can play a strong role in hormonal disruption, especially using plastic Tupperware or water bottles with BPA.

  • Inadequate nutritional support. Not getting enough high-quality fatty acids, proteins, phytonutrients, and beneficial bacteria can be a contributing factor.

  • Gut microbiome imbalance. Dysbiosis from inflammatory foods, including processed foods and high sugar foods, can cause hormonal imbalance.

  • Overburdened liver. If the liver is bombarded with toxic chemicals, medications, and processed foods, it cannot clear out our natural hormones leading to the body thinking it has an overproduction of certain sex hormones.

Toriello Acupuncture Offers Natural Hormonal Treatment  

If you are struggling with hormonal imbalance, Toriello Acupuncture offers natural hormonal treatment through acupuncture and health coaching. Our personalized treatment programs begin with a thorough initial intake that will explore your symptoms, health history, lifestyle and diet, and traditional Chinese Medicine physical exam to find the root causes of your hormonal imbalances. We will help guide you through the foods, exercises, and other lifestyle changes you can incorporate to rebalance your hormones so you can feel your best, reduce PMS symptoms, naturally reduce menopausal symptoms, and even improve fertility. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal supplements will support your health goals by focusing on qi and blood imbalances.

If you would like to learn more about what your individualized treatment plan may look like or whether acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, or health coaching is the right fit for you, please book a free 30-minute consultation with us in-person or over the phone here. You can also give us a call or send us a text at (954) 652-6618.


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